Leafing through Jekka McVicar's indispensable Complete Herb Book, I came across her notes on ginger - the very last plant in the book on account of its Latin name Zingiber officinale - particularly the notes on cultivation. I've heard good reports from others on growing ginger in the UK - indoors, yes, and as much for the beauty of the plant as the cultivation of the edible rhizome - and this unearthed a long-forgotten ambition to grow my own ginger.
The first challenge is that you need to find a fresh ginger root that might easily sprout, that is, one that already has a yellow (or even better, green) bud developing, rhino horn-like, from the main root. Often the roots on sale in the shops have been treated at source to prevent sprouting so that they can be stored for longer.
I got lucky last week. As so often happens, I wasn't really looking for sprouting ginger, but there were a cluster of rhizomes at the bottom of the box in our local mini-mart that had obviously escaped the treatment process and had tiny yellow nodules poking through the skin.
The best way to start them off here in the UK seems to be agreed upon by both Jekka and Kew Gardens - that's a good enough consensus for me.
- Fill a 20cm pot with a loam-based compost;
- Water well and let it drain;
- Cut the ginger root 5cm below the bud;
- Insert in the compost with the bud facing up;
- Barely cover with more compost;
- Cover the pot with a bell cloche or clear plastic bag;
- Place somewhere warm and light. The shoot needs temperatures above 20 degrees C to develop, so a heated propagator, conservatory or warm windowsill are your best options.
- Wait around 3-4 weeks to see shoots emerging.